Develop: Studio Sales

6 08 2008

(The quotes in this post are paraphrased from my notes on this session)

One of the sessions I went to at Develop last week was “Why We Sold Our Studio and Why We Didn’t: A Candid Discussion About Selling Up or Staying Free”, which had a panel comprised of Ian Baverstock of Kuju, Paul Wedgewood from Splash Damage, and Sarah Chudley from Bizarre Creations.

I made it as a sensible and work relevant choice over potentially more entertaining sessions, but actually it was one of the best sessions I saw, with studio owners heckling from the audience. Some of it has been reported on already (Though Paul did an okay job of presenting Splash Damage, I don’t think the press are being entirely fair to him), but here are a few extra tidbits I got from it:

Sarah Chudley:

You’re only as good as your last game, whether internal or external. If PGR5 had flopped, noone would have wanted PGR6 (publisher or fan), and we’d have ended up doing Barbie Racing

Paul was extremely sceptical of studios that do make games like Barbie Racing, and even came off as a bit of an idealist; very passionate about what games should be and what studios should be doing. In response, Ian had some words to the effect of

That’s fine, as long as you keep rolling sixes. Roll a one and you’ll be thinking “Shit, I wish I’d sold”

and also pointed out that for every independent like Valve or Epic, there are probably another 100 studios that have taken the same high risk approach to IP and failed. Andrew Oliver also weighed in from the audience with “When there’s only one offer on the table you’ve got to take it, and if that’s Barbie Racing, so be it”.

An interesting dichotomy emerged during the panel, with Ian and Sarah both telling Paul he’d probably feel different if he had kids. Some studios are suited to young, single people, whereas Bizarre have found that the more people they have with families, the more flexible they’ve had to become, with some odd shift patterns designed to accommodate parents.

Overall there was a lot of pragmatism there, though it may have been a bit stacked to have 2/3 of the panel from studios that have sold. Overall, the consensus was that selling a studio grants a certain amount of financial security to the organisation itself rather than just the owners. Of course, though, that’s not necessarily the case when a global publisher needs to trim down and starts shutting studios.

(Image: Enemy Territory, Quake Wars, by Splash Damage)

IGDA: Crunch Analysed

23 06 2008

Today, the IGDA have posted a very good article about crunch by Evan Robinson. His fundamental assertion is that crunch can quickly create negative value and actually decrease productivity, and he has plenty of citations from other industries to back this up.

Here are some highlights that give the gist of the article, but it’s well worth reading if you want to understand the issue in more detail.

More than a century of studies show that long-term useful worker output is maximized near a five-day, 40-hour workweek. Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks.

I’ve spent 20 years developing and managing software projects. Every year that passed — and every project I worked on — fueled my growing conviction that Crunch Mode is grossly, destructively, expensively inefficient. It’s common sense that the more hours people work, the less productive they become. But, over time, I noticed that the productivity losses that result from working too many extra hours start taking a bigger toll faster than most software managers realize. As I dug around, I was stunned to discover that I was hardly the first one to figure this out: my observations have been common knowledge among industrial engineers for almost a century.

Astute readers will note that there is a point, b , where working more hours doesn’t create more value. In fact, after b , each additional hour worked produces negative value. How can this be?

Chapman’s diagram of the work curve assumes that a working day of a given length is maintained over a considerable period of time. Thus it incorporates both simple and accumulated fatigue into its model. At first the declines in output per hour simply reflect the effects of fatigue on both quantity and quality of work performed toward the end of a given day. But eventually daily fatigue is compounded by cumulative fatigue. That is, any additional output produced during extended hours today will be more than offset by a decline in hourly productivity tomorrow and subsequent days.

This is a good instance of game development being able to benefit from knowledge gained in other fields, hopefully studios will take heed. I’m sure the ones that do will feel the benefits swiftly.

(CC image of Cap’n Crunch bumper sticker via JasonLiebig)